As the Los Angeles City Council appears to be getting closer to passing regulations that would limit short-term rentals like Airbnb, demonstrators held rallies at multiple sites Thursday where they asked city leaders to pass a strong ordinance regulating the industry.
The demonstrations took place at six short-term rental houses where the activists, who were organized by the service workers union UNITE HERE Local 11, argued that the residences had become "bootleg hotels" that are driving up the cost of living in Los Angeles by taking away needed housing and disrupting quiet neighborhoods through nuisance party houses.
"Airbnb has transformed much needed housing stock into de facto hotels any other hotel that doesn't care about the community, they shouldn't be surprised when their bootleg hotels face protest,'' said Jose Aguilar, a cook at the Doubletree Downtown LA and member of UNITE HERE Local11.
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The city does not have an ordinance regulating Airbnb, which connects travelers with hosts looking to rent out their home or a bedroom in their home, but struck a deal with the company in 2016 for it to pay hotel taxes on behalf of its hosts under a three-year agreement. The City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee has been working through the issue since 2016.
"After three years of discussion, the only change we see is higher rent, more homelessness, and fewer neighbors. The time to act is now. The City Council can still do the right thing but we can't wait anymore,'' said Judy Goldman of Keep Neighborhoods First.
Over 75 activists attended a City Council meeting on Tuesday to speak in favor of regulating short-term rentals, and UNITE HERE Local 11 said over120 people took part in the demonstrations around the city.
The Planning and Land Use Management Committee is trying to craft a policy that pleases both short-term rental hosts who say their livelihood depends on the practice and critics who say it is contributing to the city's housing shortage and impacting quality-of-life issues in some neighborhoods.
One of the central issues is how many days hosts may be limited to renting out their homes or parts of their homes, and the committee is considering a proposed ordinance that would limit the number of rental days per host to 180 a year, although other numbers have also been mentioned as a possibility, including through the addition of a discretionary process that would allow hosts to appeal for additional days.
Los Angeles projects it could collect over $33 million in taxes from short-term rentals each year, but the company has warned that capping rental days would significantly cut into that number.
Councilman Paul Koretz is not on the Planning and Land Use Management Committee but spoke before it in October and advocated a 90-day cap policy on rentals at properties that are not the primary residence of the renter, but said no cap would be necessary for a primary residence.
Koretz also took to Facebook today to criticize Airbnb over a recent shooting at a Sherman Oaks residence that neighbors said was rented out repeatedly for all-night parties. A man was shot in the arm and another person suffered a graze wound in a home-invasion robbery at the residence in 15000block of Valley Vista Boulevard on Feb. 28.
"This is only the latest example that the for-profit short-term rental platforms, like Airbnb, have no concern about ensuring the safety, security and livability of the neighborhoods they impact," Koretz wrote.
Airbnb did not immediately respond to a request to comment.